by Phil Andrews
As we began to draw the curtains on the extraordinary year that was 2020 we continued to yo-yo between restrictions which prevented us from attending church and restrictions which allowed us to do so but with sundry caveats applied.
The Annual Church Meeting which takes place each and every November didn’t take place in November, as we were still in the throes of our second lockdown. This meant that existing deacons and officers were re-elected by default, albeit only (as it turned out) for a few extra weeks. It also meant that when we were allowed once again to practice worship together no singing would be permitted, and even when it eventually was it needed to be done from behind a face covering (which in the author’s case was probably no bad thing).
Thankfully, on Remembrance Sunday a very small ceremony did take place at the War Memorial, and we were grateful once again to Jemima who has been dependable and steadfast in representing us at this important local event over many years.
In the event the Annual Church Meeting was held mid-December after a morning church service, and our three sitting deacons were re-elected to serve for another year (or the best part thereof).
Carols by Candlelight was an unusually staid affair, with hymns of the season being listened to as opposed to participated in. A (presumably) unmasked choir delivered its airs electronically, to be enjoyed contemplatively by those assembled while the story of the Nativity was related, as ever, by Antony from the pulpit.
Zoom meetings and Bible Studies
Despite the first of the vaccines having been issued to the very most vulnerable, the pandemic unfortunately took a turn for the worse in January and once again our doors were bolted. They were to remain so until March 28th, Palm Sunday. Thereafter muted Sunday services co-existed with Zoom meetings and Bible Studies engaged in from the safety of our living rooms. In this way many of us continued to be able to partake of some of the events which ordinarily would have occurred in the Quiet Room. It was not ideal, but it was the best we had. Socially distanced Church Meetings held after services of worship took the place of our usual dedicated Wednesday evening meets, but they did at least give curious members of the congregation who are not (yet?) members of the church the opportunity to witness the way in which they operate, hopefully inspiring them to consider taking out church membership themselves in the not too distant future? Let us hope, and pray, on that one.
Unusually, we met in August. Ordinarily this would have been the month of our summer break from Church Meeting. However, the general consensus seemed to be that seventeen months was more than enough time to have been at break already and so we gathered together. Perhaps more significantly, we gathered together in the Church Hall, on a Wednesday evening, rather than engaging in another hurried and necessarily ramshackle event chaired from the lectern. It was our first “proper” meeting for a year and a half, and much was discussed – including the welcome return to our building of our good friends from the Hosanna congregation.
Of course, when we opened our doors once more it was not just the flock which had to be rounded up. As our Pulpit Secretary, Caroline has always been ahead of the game in booking preachers, sometimes filling slots a great many months in advance. When Covid intervened to upset our schedules, it was necessary to confirm that existing bookings were still in the minds, and the diaries, of those who had committed.
As well as our impressive portfolio of regular visiting preachers, it has been heartening that for a relatively small congregation we have been able to call upon the services of so many of our own. Caroline herself has given a number of services on a series of thought-provoking topics. Elizabeth has delivered frequently and always splendidly, Jeannette’s son Matthew has taken services from the pulpit and, of course, we are forever grateful to Antony for continuing to take on the largest share of our preaching duties. Let us pray that others will hear a calling in the fullness of time and offer to join their number – please come forward, don’t be shy; we would love to hear from you and you can be assured of our encouragement and support.
One of the real highlights of a year unavoidably light on activity was a joint outdoor service held at St. John’s in the September sun, with other local churches of various denominations. As was so often the case in the past our own church was almost conspicuously well represented, with Elizabeth and Sally addressing those assembled alongside speakers from elsewhere in Isleworth. After the sad demise of similar initiatives in the past it is hoped that this time a spirit of unity will prevail with determination and enthusiasm, and we thank Elizabeth for all her groundwork in helping to make this happen.
It would be a brave person who tried to predict what the year to come might have in store for us. The nasty virus is rising again, but then so is our immunity. Retrospectively, it occurs to the writer that what we should take from our experiences of the last year and a half is to be grateful for fellowship, to be thankful for the safety and the health that God grants us, and to appreciate our own church traditions whilst educating ourselves in new ways through which we might, if compelled to do so, best circumvent issues and inconveniences thrown up by cruel circumstance.
More than anything, we should always be mindful that God has seen us all, as individuals and as a church, through the difficulties that we have been obliged to navigate. Many other institutions have fallen by the wayside in the pandemic’s wake. That we stand strong, if still small in number, is something for which we should be immensely proud. Let us, in this year to come, repay God’s faith in us by resolving to take our fellowship to a new level of service and achievement.